Swedish team penalized in Volvo Ocean Race

A Swedish sailing team entered in the Volvo Ocean Race, in which teams circumnavigate the globe, was penalized by international sailing authorities on Thursday because the boat’s keel failed to comply with the rules.

The keel of the Ericsson Nordic yacht, one of eight teams that will embark on the grueling race on October 11, “contained cavities which could not be completely filled, and was therefore not solid,” a jury appointed by the International Sailing Federation said.

It ruled that the team may take part in the race, but must receive point reductions at each stage.

Ericsson Nordic is one of two Swedish teams entered in the race from the Spanish Mediterranean port of Alicante to St Petersburg in Russia. The other is the race favorite Ericsson International.

Ericsson Racing Team’s managing director, Richard Brisius, said he was “really shocked” by the decision, and called on the jury to reopen the hearing so the team could present new evidence.

“We thought we had made it perfectly clear that we used the best endeavours possible to comply with the rules,” he told a news conference. “But the jury has decided to give us a penalty which is at a level which we have never seen in this race before.”

At issue are three cavities in the keel, which the team had filled with 162.55 kilograms of steel. “However, there are still some voids equal to 625 grams,” said the team’s legal counsel, Luis Saenz.

Asked if he might withdraw the boat from the race, Brisius said “at this stage, I’d prefer not to answer that.”

Other teams taking part are Spain’s Telefonica Black and Telefonica Blue, Team Russia, US entry Puma Ocean Racing, the Sino-Irish Green Dragon and Team Delta Lloyd from the Netherlands.

There are nine stops – Cape Town, Cochin, Singapore, Qingdao, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Gothenburg and Stockholm – before the finish in St Petersburg, expected in June 2009.

The teams receive points according to their position in each leg.